Often, the world around us doesn’t act the way we want it to–for example, when you drift out of control halfway up a snowy mountain in Southern Spain. Allow me to elaborate.
My friends and I figured a quick ski trip from Sevilla, where I was studying abroad, to Sierra Nevada, a mountain overlooking the city of Granada, would be almost effortless. We went during a holiday weekend, which was strike one. After boarding a train to Granada, the conductor reminded us that due to construction on the railway, all passengers would exit at an earlier station an hour away and take a bus to Granada. Frustrated they didn’t tell us this at purchase, I glanced at my ticket and realized that, well, they actually had. Didn’t read the fine print. Strike two.
We finally entered the station around 7:30 PM. My thorough pre-departure research told me about a cheap bus to get us up the mountain. It did not tell me the last of those busses left about two and a half hours before we arrived. Oops. Strike three.
We were stuck in the train station of a foreign country an hour away from and 5000 feet below our final destination. We faced a huge-ass language barrier that made it difficult–if not impossible–to understand how the hell to get there. Rain was pouring. Phones were dead. The promise of making snowmen in sunny skies with an attractive Spanish tour guide looked like less and less of a reality.
But we persevered. We booked it outside, trying to find a brave ship captain to take us in his vessel through the unforgiving storm. Apparently taking group of American tourists up a snowy Mountain on a Friday evening in a Prius wasn’t appealing.
Despite all this, we eventually got a nibble. A friendly man told us that while he couldn’t take us, if we found a driver with cadenas, snow chains, we’d have better luck.
With this new information, I ran around screaming this new word like my life depended on it. We managed to find two cab drivers who, for the equivalent of 80 McDonald’s dollar-menu items, would attempt to take our group to the top of the mountain. The catch, however, was that we had to pay cash immediately, and if we needed chains at any point, the price jumped 20 more orders of small fries. If the weather got too extreme and we had to turn back, we could end up right where we started with a big gaping hole in our pockets.
We blindly shook their hands without a single moment of hesitation. If I learned anything from Economy 101, it’s that when the demand extends higher than the atmosphere, you can pretty much get what you want for the service.
Quiet cab ride. Ominous. While I didn’t speak to the driver, it wasn’t hard to feel his apprehension over scaling the mountain. About 20 minutes up the rains started to dwindle into more solid ice, then snow. 20 minutes later the cab lost traction, sliding in the snow off to the side.
“Puta madre,” our driver whispered under his breath. Son of a bitch.
He stepped out of the car and opened the trunk to get the chains out. It was sub-20 degrees out, dumping snow and pitch black, with passing car headlights as our only source of illumination.
20 more minutes passed. 30. Chains began to freeze. Hands started to blacken with oil. I soon realized my khaki pants just weren’t built to lie face down in slush when trying to attach stupid chain links to tire rubber.
It also looked like this guy wanted to turn around. Throwing his hands down in frustration and cursing just about every deity known to mankind, he started to pack his things in his car.
We quickly considered our options. Either eat the cost of the cab and ride up in the morning, or make it to the God damn top, get our money’s worth and stay at the place we’d already paid for as planned. Pretty easy to assume we would at least try for the latter.
I brainstormed hard. Another cab? No way. We could walk? No idea how far that is. Finally, a light bulb: “Why don’t we just hitchhike it?”
No time to ponder. Our thumbs shot high into in the air. One car passed with a window down and apologized for no room. Others drove by. Finally, with seemingly seconds to spare, the cab engine starting, the snow fully raging, my brain rapidly freezing, salvation emerged from the misty fog: a huge AWD Toyota Tundra driven by two Spanish guys about our age. They stopped momentarily.
“Que paso! Van Uds. a Sierra Nevada?” What’s up! You guys going to Sierra Nevada?
It’s easy to rely on the endless “all-inclusive-package weekends” to exotic destinations around the world where transportation, food and sights are taken care of for you. All that is needed is a credit card and the ability to follow directions. And while you’re generally left without annoying obstacles or interruptions, what’s missing from these kinds of excursions is any sense of spontaneity and adventure. Sure, we got in five hours later and paid 100 Euros more than expected, but we still made it to where we needed to go, and toughened our skin in the process.
At the very least, I made a great story to talk about for the rest of my life.